For those unfamiliar, tubing is what Southerners do in the summertime (and what Northerns do in the winter). Take a large inflated inner tube, climb up a slope, perch your behind in the ring, and let the current take its course. Tubing is a great way to waste away a few lazy hours in the company of good friends and cold beers, and all the splashing about makes for a welcome cool down when temperatures hit the triple digits. From slow and secluded to packed and popular, there’s a tubing destination guaranteed to meet all your aquatic needs. Here are the best local spots for tubing, along with info on gear rentals, booze regulations, and how to get there.
Austin Tube rentals:Lake Travis Waterloo Adventures provides complimentary inflatables, floating picnic tables, and all the works when you purchase tickets to the Floating Challenge Course. Booze rules:Food and beverages including wine, beer, and frozen drinks are available for purchase onsite. If you love tubing, you’ll love the annual Lake Travis Waterloo Adventures pop-up, opening this year on May 14, 2022. It’s part of the Adventure Island compound that hosts Lake Travis Zip Lining throughout the year. Summer is the ultimate party, when the island runneth over with beach games, swimming, and a massive aqua park made up of a 14-foot climbing tower, ice tower, water slide, jump tower with multiple levels, and a 25-foot trampoline. When you’re done on the obstacle course, grab some downtime on the hammocks, lounge chairs, and of course, a wide range of water floats. Drink coolers are also available for use at no extra charge if you want to keep those iced beverages close. Just don’t forget your towel and sunscreen.
Bastrop (approximately 33 miles from Austin) Tube rentals: BYOT (bring your own tube). Booze rules: Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). Though the Colorado River flows through Austin, the most scenic and convenient spot to congregate is at the Bastrop end. Enter via Fisherman’s Park, where you’ll find easy access and parking in downtown Bastrop, with a paved trail down to the water making lugging that tube a million times easier (not to mention less muddy). Float south toward El Camino Real Paddling Trail, a wide, slow-moving six-mile trail where y’all can stop for picnics or flow on and enjoy the lush greenery over the course of a few hours. The banks steepen further downstream, where gorgeous high sandstone bluffs and cliffs await.
Lake Marble Falls
Marble Falls (approximately 50 miles from Austin) Tube rentals: BYOT (bring your own tube). Booze rules: Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). A low-key spot that’s rarely ever crowded-here, you can even expect a peaceful float on weekends, largely due to the fact that there isn’t much else to do in the area. So bring your tube, make sure the YETI’s packed with sandwiches and drinks, and enjoy hours of uninterrupted float time. For those not keen on food prep, duck into the Blue Bonnet Cafe for curbside pick-up sandwiches, burgers, and salads en route.
San Marcos River
San Marcos (approximately 30 miles from Austin) Tube rentals: Texas State Tubes is a solid choice for tube rentals and necessary transport along the San Marcos River. A return shuttle ride from Austin and tube rental package will run you $55, while if you turn up and bring your own tube, the three-hour float will only cost you $15. There are also early-bird prices, student, and military discounts, plus bachelor and bachelorette party deals available. Booze rules: Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). Looking for some good, clean fun? San Marcos has you covered-literally, with spring-fed waters that are among the cleanest you’ll find in Texas. The expanse is surrounded by vegetation and makes for a pretty damn scenic float as it weaves through Downtown San Marcos and the Texas State campus. For extra excitement, plan your excursion around Float Fest (July 23 to 24). The two-day bash combines camping, tubing, and tunes, with a 2022 lineup boasting both big names-Marshmello, Vampire Weekend, Chance the Rapper, and more-and local Austin acts.
New Braunfels (approximately 50 miles from Austin) Tube rentals: At Texas Tubes, you can score a tube and shuttle ride for $25, and throw a cooler rental into the mix for an extra $15. Booze rules:Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). An extremely short river-the shortest navigable river in Texas-the Comal is a super-popular tubing destination and typically draws some pretty sizable crowds, particularly on holiday weekends. Though it’s not a long drive from Austin and definitely qualifies as a very doable day trip (the float typically lasts around three hours), the area’s best draw is its surrounding attractions: The Gristmill Restaurant; legendary dance hall and music venue Gruene Hall; and, of course, waterslide mecca Schlitterbahn, all of which make spending an entire weekend here totally worth it.
Concan (approximately 140 miles from Austin) Tube rentals:The Frio has plenty of outfitters to fulfill your needs-super affordably, at that-as Andy’s On River Road and Josh’s Frio River Outfitter offer rentals for as low as $15 per day. Booze rules:Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). Texas tubing destinations don’t get more beautiful than the Frio. In terms of atmosphere, this escape is definitely less party and more peaceful. With some stretches of clear water canopied by cypress trees and others surrounded by steep cliffs, the float offers the illusion of isolation and provides nature buffs with 47 miles of impressive scenery. Also, “frio” is Spanish for cold… so keep that in mind. (Note: much of the area surrounding the Frio is a liquor-free zone, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to enjoy some booze with your views).
Canyon Lake (approximately 65 miles from Austin) New Braunfels, TX (approximately 50 miles from Austin) Tube rentals: While you’ve got a ton of choices here, one noteworthy option is Tube Haus, in operation since 1978. They offer short, medium, and long floats, and will provide you with river access, a shuttle ride, and a tube for $20 cash. Booze rules: Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). With an abundance of college kids and river rats, the Guadalupe can get pretty rowdy, and on the busiest weekends and holidays, the waterway has a bit of a frat party-meets-Mardi Gras vibe. If that’s your scene, party on, bro. But if you’re looking for a more family-friendly float, never fear-there are tamer options, too. Try accessing the river through Guadalupe River State Park, where you can not only swim and tube, but take the fun to the turf with camping and over 13 miles of hiking and biking trails. Just keep in mind that state parks mandate sobriety, and you can’t consume alcohol anywhere on the property. Park rangers, it seems, don’t appreciate a good party.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Austin Tube rentals: BYOT (bring your own tube) Booze rules: As a general rule, it’s a nope, but the lines are slightly blurry. (For instance, you can drink at Bull Creek, but not on the Greenbelt.) All in all, the best policy is to obey posted signage and, of course, to be discreet. After all, no one needs to know the real contents of that Big Gulp. This isn’t tubing in the traditional sense (in other words, you’re not really going anywhere), but if you’re looking to hang out on the water within the city limits, the Greenbelt, Austin’s official urban oasis, has you covered. You’ll have various success at different points along the water depending on water levels, but swimming holes like Twin Falls, Sculpture Falls, Gus Fruh, and Campbell’s Hole typically make for good spots to bring your tube, post up, and float up, no crazy commute required.
Millsap (approximately 170 miles from Austin) Tube rentals:Depending on where you want to access the river, there are several different options for tube rentals. As a starting point, check out Hillbilly Haven, a campground that offers both two-mile and five-mile floating trips. Booze rules:Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). While the Brazos isn’t exactly in the neighborhood, a visit is well worth the time commitment and the commute. Think more than 70 miles of generally calm floatable waters (don’t worry, you don’t have to float all 70). While rental facilities serve as good starting points, the best part of the Brazos is blazing your own tubing trail. With access points leading from the road to the river every few miles, this course gives you the opportunity to choose your own adventure.
Bandera (approximately 120 miles from Austin) Tube rentals:Medina River Company offers tube rentals and immediate river access. $9 gets you a tube at Bandera Beach Club, where the season starts the second weekend in May and runs through Labor Day (as long as conditions are favorable). Booze rules: Drink up (no glass or styrofoam). If you prefer a more relaxing tubing experience, the Medina is an awesome pick. Quietly winding through a chill tunnel of cypress trees, the float is scenic, often slow, and sports a quieter feel than some of the other, more crowded rivers. In other words, it doesn’t attract as much of the Spring Break demographic. For extracurricular action on land, check out the town’s roster of excellent saloons including clear standout 11th Street Cowboy Bar.
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James Wong is a Libra who spends his time pretending to be a vegan, watching wildlife clips, and booking plane tickets. Born in London, lived in Tokyo, and now residing in Austin, his greatest achievement is giving Posh Spice a hug in 2016.
In the midst of all the SXSW chaos, it helps to remember that there’s a rainbow at the festival’s end-that is, the hangover-blessing we’ve been granted of having St. Patrick’s Day 2023 fall on a Friday. Whether you attribute this small win to the Gregorian calendar or the luck of the Irish, it’s sure to amp up the already liver-damaging activities associated with this cultural celebration. However, Éire is more than just leprechauns and Colin Farrell-it’s a breathtaking land full of warm, welcoming, and good-hearted people. Fortunately, there’s a way you can get a taste of the Republic’s spirit, and a dark stout, at the same time by hitting up one of Austin’s various Irish pubs. From cozy, intimate spaces decked out like small taverns in Cobh, to modern dives with all the party energy of Temple Bar, our list has the best spots in the city to “erin go bragh” all out on March 17.
With a giant model of a beer tap literally decorating their front door, you can’t miss B.D Riley’s, nor doubt that this East Austin hang is a spot to down some serious brewskis. And its name, and perfect pours of Guinness, aren’t the only aspects they draw from the Emerald Isle-the entire pub itself was actually designed and built in Dundalk, Ireland, and shipped over for assembly in Bat City. Such authentic decor calls for equally authentic sounds, therefore, on St. Patrick’s Day, B.D. Riley’s will feature an all-day, four-artist bill of live, trad-inspired music. So, while you may not start the day knowing all the words to “The Galway Girl,” you are bound to sing along by last call.
Having only opened this past December, Kelly’s is the new kid with a brogue on the block. Occupying the space which formerly housed tapas restaurant Winebelly, this pub had big shoes to fill for South Austin barflies, but quickly won them over with an impressive whiskey selection and friendly atmosphere. A big reason behind the real deal Éire vibes can, most likely, be chalked up to the fact that one of Kelly’s owners was actually born and bred in Ireland-and the dedication to delivering a true-to-life experience is evident in everything from the shepherd’s pie to the witty bartenders. For St. Patrick’s Day, they are getting the party started early with live music and an opening time of 8 am.
While The Domain may boast more bars than you can shake a shamrock at, there’s only one spot in the North Austin entertainment behemoth that can be properly called an Irish pub: Jack & Ginger’s. Start off the night with selecting a tasting flight from their over 82 beers on tap, then, move onto shots poured straight from their Irish Whiskey Tours-after loosening up with a round or two, you might just find yourself with the gift of gab. And, before snapping a selfie over Jack & Ginger’s see-through glass floor, balance out that buzz with food offerings like a giant soft pretzel or a round of fried pickles.
Here’s a spot that visibly radiates with Irish pride-at Foxy’s, the glow of green beams out from the bar’s lighted panels, and across their chandelier made of Jameson bottles. When it comes to cups and chow, their commitment to the theme continues-the use of the word,”proper,” in the pub’s name alone indicates you’re in for a heavy pour of the standards. Consequently, the taps are abundant with essential Irish sips, including Guinness, Magners, and Smithwick’s. With Lone Star on draft, there’s also a nod to Texas tradition as well. But don’t fear if you’re bored of beer-Foxy’s variety of whiskey-based cocktails will let you switch it up (and still keep it Celtic). March 17 will find them celebrating with live music, whiskey tastings, and swag giveaways.
Compared to a flight to Dublin, the 30-minute drive to Round Rock’s Cork & Barrel is much more convenient-not to mention, won’t require waiting in a TSA line. A mix between a modern Austin beer garden and a historical Irish pub, this spot’s spacious interior and expansive outdoor patio guarantees there will be enough room for the whole crew to cheer “sláinte.” And, their microbrewery’s signature beers are the ideal drinks to do such a toast with. The menu of specially crafted drafts includes a blueberry wheat, an Irish red ale, and a vanilla stout. This St. Patrick’s Day also marks Cork & Barrel’s two-year anniversary, and they are throwing down for the double-celebration with live music, yard games, Irish food specials, and plentiful amounts of green beer and Irish Car Bombs.